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Welcome to Intersection, the McKinsey newsletter devoted to helping you make a vital difference when it comes to diversity, gender equality, and inclusion. We’ve been publishing for years about how much diversity matters. Here, we’ll provide weekly insights to help you understand and advance toward achieving it in your workplace.
We chose the name “Intersection” for two reasons. The first reflects the fact that none of us can be defined by any one label or group. The second stems from what we’ve long known: that innovation and transformation tend to happen at the intersection of industries, cultures, and trends. When people from diverse backgrounds intersect, they exchange ideas, experiences, and practices. And what we’ve seen in this pandemic year is that people are capable of inspiring and unprecedented change.
Black Lives Matter
A clarion call for racial justice. It’s been more than six months since the killing of George Floyd in Minneapolis focused global attention on the persistence of racial violence and inequity. Companies responded with commitments to racial justice like never before, including our own firm, which pledged to take on these ten actions. Today marks a significant step on one of those actions: the launch of the McKinsey Institute for Black Economic Mobility. More on that next week.
A crisis with unequal effects. The COVID-19 pandemic continues to take an outsize toll in the United States not only on Black lives but also on Hispanic and Latino lives and the lives of Asian Americans.
Why companies should care. Amid profound tumult and anxiety, companies have moved toward prioritizing purpose. Clearly, caring about the well-being of employees and communities should be top of mind in those efforts. There’s also the business case: our research shows that companies in the top quartile for gender and ethnic diversity are consistently more likely to outperform those with more homogeneous leadership teams. But progress remains slow.
Counties(1) most at risk of disruption due to COVID-19, heat map of highlighted counties in deciles 8-10, representing 30% of the population
Global GDP growth could increase by $12 trillion in 2025 if every country created jobs for women at the pace of its fastest-growing neighbor. So says this article from the McKinsey Global Institute, published in advance of the 25th anniversary of the Fourth World Conference on Women in Beijing. What made that conference so notable? It produced the Beijing Platform for Action, which identified a dozen critical areas for governments to address in advancing women and girls. For a perspective from three women who were there, check out this piece in the Georgetown Voice.
$1.5 trillion
There’s a persistent racial wealth gap in the United States
From 1992 to 2016, the median wealth of Black families has stagnated at around $17,000. During the same period, the median wealth of white families rose from $115,000 to $170,000—now ten times higher than that of Black families.
Closing the gap could add up to $1.5 trillion in GDP in 2028
So says this research about the effects of the COVID-19 pandemic on Black lives and livelihoods. One of the authors of that article, Jason Wright, recently left McKinsey to become the first Black president of an NFL team. Here’s a webinar where he talked about how to reverse this growing divide.
“Coming out isn’t this nice, clean thing that you decide you’re going to do one day, and then it’s done.” – Diana Ellsworth
Five years after legalizing same-sex marriage, the US Supreme Court ruled in June that the 1964 Civil Rights Act forbids discriminating against lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and queer (LGBTQ) employees. Diana Ellsworth, a partner in McKinsey’s Atlanta office, says the decision is likely to have far-reaching consequences as companies scramble to make sure they’re compliant. But courts don’t create an inclusive work culture, she says—companies do. And more specifically, people do. Ellsworth is coauthor of a fascinating global study on the realities of coming out at work. If you’d rather listen, check out this podcast.
The composition of a corporate board can have a significant impact on a company’s success
Boards are there to hold executives accountable, while also helping them to see around corners. The problem is that they’re not diverse enough. Barry Williams, who left McKinsey in 1979 to settle in private equity, has served on several boards. (See this nice backgrounder on Barry, via The History Project.) Here’s what he told us about his personal experience as a Black director and about what he learned from speaking with his extensive network of contacts.
I interviewed 50 people who served on 274 boards. The most startling finding was the somewhat pessimistic outlook for the future of Black representation on corporate boards. Part of it is greater competition for a few seats. There’s a range of skill sets that boards want in any one candidate.
What I totally disagreed with was a perception by outsiders that there was a limited supply of candidates. The real issue is that most CEOs and boards don’t know who the attractive candidates are, so now I’m putting together a resource. Relationships are so important in getting people on boards.
Another thing I found was that senior Black executives wished they had promoted diversity sooner, louder, and more often in their careers. They had promoted diversity when they got their feet on the ground, but there was a reluctance to be a single-issue director. I understand that. Nobody wants to be the diversity director, just as women don’t want to feel like they have to talk about women’s issues. Another startling conclusion was that senior Black board members felt that they had been excluded from board consideration in the technology industry, particularly with VC- and private-equity-backed companies. I think it comes down to networks and some perceived lack of supply. All these studies pertain to women too.
Now, I’m working on improving the networks and on showing that there's an adequate source of supply. I think we should encourage companies to increase board size. Size isn’t the determining factor of effective boards; it’s governance.
— Edited by Diane Brady, a Senior Editor in the New York office
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